In this sentence – That is why arguments against professionals in the Olympics will always be cut down at the knees – what does "cut down at the knees" mean here?
Imagine the operating room in a hospital in which someone is being amputated from the knee down.
Ok, you've got the idea. That's what it feels like to be cut down at the knees. And that's taking it literally, of course. Figuratively speaking, an argument or theory that is cut down at the knees is, yes, you guessed it, pretty weak. Here, it means the arguments that pros should be excluded from the Olympics won't be able to stand (the test of scrutiny), much in the same way a person cut down at the knees won't be able to stand properly (without the help of crutches, that is). In other words, those arguments don't make sense. They won't hold water. They are no good.
Let's see a few media examples of "cut down at the knees". In each example, I'll paraphrase (in brackets) – explaining the phrase in other words.
1. The Beverly Hills portfolio manager felt his world falling apart. After losing half of his net worth and most of his clients within four months last year, he couldn't sleep. Then he started having panic attacks; finally he was unable to drive on the freeway. "He felt cut down at the knees," says James Gottfurcht, the clinical psychologist who is treating him. A pared-back lifestyle and discussions about childhood feelings of inferiority have helped, Gottfurcht says. The antidepressant Paxil helps, too.
- Having it all – But Needing a grip, Forbes Magazine, October 8, 2001.
(Well, no paraphrasing necessary here, apparently, other than pointing out that the clinical psychologist certainly knows his trade – the trade of a sawbones as they used to call doctors in general – and he certainly cut it to the bones on this one when he likened the plight of a businessman losing his fortune to feelings of being "cut down at the knees".)
2. In a bid to spur economic development in its downtown area, the city of Springfield, Mo., has set up a free Wi-Fi network using four BelAir 200 multiswitch service routers.…
Service providers in many U.S. cities are concerned that the addition of new, free hot spots and hot zones, underwritten and pushed by municipalities, could undercut their broadband services revenues.
"We were expecting to becut down at the knees (slaughtered, destroyed, heavily defeated) by opponents, but were not," Brewer said in a telephone interview, noting that he and others in the city put together a "very careful" campaign to make sure the service was not a direct threat to services offered by SBC or other providers. Part of what makes the Wi-Fi service acceptable to SBC is that users get only one hour of free access, and they are primarily transient students.
- CTIA: Springfield, Mo., launches downtown Wi-Fi network, Computerworld.com, March 15, 2005.
3. Harrington did not answer a question about how things would have changed for García if the putt had gone in. But his reply gave much insight into his own views on the difference between winning and losing. And he knows his subject matter. Not long after turning professional in 1995, he won the Peugeot Open de España. Between that win in 1996 and his second victory four years later, he finished second 17 times. He has 30 runner-up finishes as a professional.
"I would be aware myself of the twin impostors of success and failure, how similar they are," he said. "Over the years, I've done some great things and looked like I've lost tournaments, and I've won tournaments where I've struggled home and won it.
"So I realize the difference between success and defeat, and all players have to manage that area of the game. Because when you do win, you're put up on a pedestal and everything is great, and when you don't win, it's very easy to becut down at the knees (heavily criticized by the media). To be honest, there's not much difference."
- Lessons Abound for a Winner and a Runner-Up at the Open, New York Times, July 16, 2008.